Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: If you are trying to read more of the Bible in 2012, Nancy Leigh DeMoss says you need more than will power.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We can’t do it on our own. We can’t keep His law on our own; we can’t know His Word on our own. We need His help. We need His grace. We need His Spirit to instruct us in what God’s Word means and to enable us to obey it.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, January 11. Here’s Nancy continuing in a new series called,  Revive Me According to Your Word.

Nancy: Some of you perhaps are familiar with the research that George Barna does on religion in America. One of the things he’s been talking about for a number of years which echoes a great concern on my heart is this whole issue of Biblical illiteracy—people who call themselves Christians, consider themselves Christ followers but who don’t know God’s Word.

I don’t know that there’s been any time within my lifetime, which is more than half century now, that biblical literacy has been at such a low as it is today. In a report (as a result of his research) not too long ago that Barna gave, he talked about how biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the United States. He said:

Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for the context, and consider the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on.

There is shockingly little growth evident in people’s understanding of the fundamental themes of the scriptures and amazingly little interest in deepening their knowledge and application of biblical principles.

These are his findings as a result of surveying thousands of people about Bible reading. Then he said:

By the time most Americans reach the age of 13 or 14, they think they pretty much know everything of value the Bible has to teach and they are no longer interested in learning more scriptural content. In a culture driven by the desire to receive value, more Bible teaching is generally not viewed as an exercise in providing such value.

Did you catch that? People say if it has immediate value for me and I want it but by age thirteen or fourteen I think I have all there is to get from here, and so getting more teaching, more reading is not something that’s a high priority for me because I don’t see a whole lot of value in it.

Well, this thinking is what is leading to, within our lifetime, all-time lows of morality, of wisdom, of common sense, of virtue, among Christians or so-called Christians in our churches.

The lack of knowing God’s Word—not to speak of applying it, living it out, and sharing it with others—just the lack of knowing and understanding the Word and the ways of God is so abysmally low that people are running their lives, they’re living their lives, they’re making decisions, they’re doing church without referring to the manual of the One who made us, created us, made the family, made the church, and tells us how all these things ought to function.

Now it would be easy for me to go on a rant about this, and some of you think I just did, but I want not so much to rant as to rave about the wonders of God’s Word and to beg you, to plead with you, to appeal to you this year to get into God’s Word like you never have before. If you’re already reading God’s Word every day, then I want to encourage you to read more.

I was with somebody last week, an itinerate preacher who is traveling worldwide. I would just live in a perpetual state of jetlag if I had this man’s schedule. Traveling all the time, preaching everywhere, and he was telling me about how he reads currently through the Old Testament six times a year and the New Testament every month. I looked at him and I said, “How long does it take you to do that?” He says, “Two hours every day.” He listens to the Bible on CD and follows along in the text.

Now some of you are saying there’s no way I could do two hours. Well, maybe you couldn’t. What can you do? If you’re already reading God’s Word daily, ask God how you can read more. If you’re not reading the Bible consistently, you’re reading it sporadically, then purpose to read it regularly.

Some of you aren’t reading the Bible at all. You know, you’ve got to brush the dust off to take your Bible to church (if you take your Bible to church). So wherever you are, ask God to take you farther this year. And I’m just challenging you to read the Bible every day in 2012.

Is there anybody who hasn’t gotten that yet as you’ve been listening over the last several days? Do you understand that’s what we’re appealing for you to do? Maybe you’re just listening to this program for the first time. You don’t know what Revive Our Hearts is all about. It doesn’t matter. I want you to read the Bible every day in 2012. It is the greatest piece of wisdom or counsel I could give you as you start adding to this year. If you will do it, a year from now, you will come back and thank me. You will be so grateful. Your life will not be the same.

Now, there’s more than reading. Just reading is not sufficient, and we’re talking about that in this series. But there’s no less than reading the Bible that is necessary. All the other things—obeying it, meditating on it, sharing with others—you can’t do all that if you’re not reading it.

So I just thought let’s get people started reading the Bible—reading it. Just promise, commit to yourself to the Lord that you want to read the Bible every day. Go to ReviveOurHearts.com. There are lots of helpful resources there. We can send you an email twice a month if you would like it to encourage you in that journey. We’ll send you, for a donation of any amount to this ministry, a little resource we’ve prepared called "My Personal Bible Reading Journal" that will help you track through the course of the year.

It’s simple. Anybody can do it. Your children can do it. Do it as a family. Do it with your small group. Call somebody on the phone and read Scripture to each other. Do it by yourself. I don’t care how you do it, just do it. Get reading the Bible.

Now today, I want to focus on two concepts. I couldn’t figure out quite where to put them in this series, so I’m just going to put them here. I just want to challenge your thinking in these two areas.

The first is in relation to meditation—meditating on the Word of God. James Montgomery Boice  has written a great commentary on the Psalms that was helpful to me in preparing this series on Psalm 119, he said,

Meditation is recalling what we have committed to memory and then turning it over and over in our minds to see the fullest implications and applications of the truth.1

That’s a helpful definition. It’s recalling what we’ve committed to memory. So first you read it—you memorize it. Now you don’t have to memorize the whole Bible to meditate on the Bible. But you take a portion, a verse, a phrase, a word, a paragraph, a chapter, a small book of the Bible maybe. Memorize it, read it over and over and over and over again. As you do, you’re turning it over and over in your mind to see the fullest implications and applications of the truth.

It’s examining it. It's like when you see a jeweler take a diamond and look at it from every angle under different lights trying to see the different facets and how it shines.

The multi-splendored wonders of God’s Word are so magnificent. Meditation on God’s Word will open those up to your heart. You see this emphasis on meditation all through Psalm 119. Let me read several of those verses to you.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (v. 15)

Another way of describing meditation is to fix my eyes on it.

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. (v. 48)

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (v. 97)

I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. (v. 99)

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night [And what does he do, count sheep? No!] that I may meditate on your promise. (v. 148)

Now, I don’t know if it’s because he couldn’t sleep or because he was so excited about God’s Word that he just wanted to stay awake and meditate. Either way, during the night, he said he would meditate on God’s Word.

That word meditate—you heard it over and over again there, is the Hebrew word that means "to ponder, to consider, to think about something."  It communicates the idea of going over something in your mind—rehearsing it over and over again, whether inwardly, just reflecting on it silently, or rehearsing it aloud with others, talking about it with others. Inward meditation or talking about it with others—different ways to meditate.

I enjoy walking with a walking partner. I’ve had different ones over the years and one of the things I like to do when I’m preparing a series like this . . . I was out walking with a friend with in the last week, and we were talking about these matters. I talk about whatever I’m getting ready to teach. I’m meditating on it. I’m mulling it over and over in my mind.

Something I’ve been meditating on while I’ve been preparing for this series is all the times the psalmist talks about delighting in God’s laws. People don’t delight in laws generally. How did he delight in God’s laws and why? I’ve been mulling that over. I’ve been meditating on it. What does that mean? How do you get to delight in God’s laws? If you don’t delight in God’s laws, why don’t you? I’ve been meditating on that. I’m pondering it. I’m reflecting on it myself. I’m rehearsing it and talking about it with others. That’s meditation.

“Open my eyes,” the psalmist says in verse 18, “that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” That word behold means "to fix your eyes upon it; to think about it; to contemplate it; to give attention to it." It means to look intently at something. It’s not just a passing glance at God’s Word. It’s a fixed gaze upon a verse, or a word, or a passage, or a concept in God’s Word.

The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies. (v. 95)

I meditate on them. I fix my eyes on them. I look on them.

Now in Psalm 119, we see that meditation on God’s Word is intended to be a way of life—something we do all the time, not just in our quiet time, a time set aside for meditating on God’s Word. But it is supposed to be something we do all the time. And you remember in Joshua 1 the Scripture says if we will meditate on God’s Word day and night, we will be successful in everything we do. Meditate on God’s Word day and night.

Psalm one talks about meditating on God’s Word all the time. You see this same thing in Psalm 119. Look at verse  55.

I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.

Thinking about God’s character and His name and His Ways—not just in the daytime, but at night.

At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules. (v. 62)

I had houseguests last night,  and one of them got there earlier in the evening. But the two college women didn’t get there until after midnight. I think it was about 12:30. I came down the stairs. I was still finishing up preparing for today. One of the guests said, “Oh, I thought you were following Psalm 119, “At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.” I’m thinking I actually rose to see the guests that were coming to my house. But getting up in the middle of the night—maybe just because you wake up; maybe just because you want to wake up to think about God’s rules, His laws.

I rise before dawn and cry for help. (v. 147)

I really think this psalmist had problems with insomnia or something, but it’s interesting how many times he talks about meditating on God’s ways during the night. “I hope in your words.”

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night that I may meditate on your promise. (v. 148)

And then 164 covers the rest of the day:

Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.

Now, I don’t think that meant that he set a timer—you know, divided the day into seven periods and would set the alarm to go off. That’s not a bad idea. And if you have an iPhone or an alarm on your watch or whatever to set times that you just want to stop and meditate on God’s Word. But seven is the number of perfection; it’s the number of completion. And I think what he probably really means is all the time, all day long, every time I have the chance; "I praise You for Your righteous rules. I’m thinking about Your ways"—that’s meditation.

Some of you are familiar with Matthew Henry’s commentary on the Bible. It's a great resource. He was a Puritan commentator. He had a godly father named Philip Henry who lived in the mid-1600s. And in speaking about his father, Philip Henry, Matthew said

[When] pressing the study of the Scriptures, my father advised to take a verse of Psalm 119 every morning to meditate upon, and so go over the Psalm twice in the year.

So his father said take one verse of Psalm 119 every morning, meditate on that verse for the day. That way you’ll meditate through this psalm twice a year. And his father said, that

. . . will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the scripture; and he often said; "All grace grows, as love to the word of God grows."

You want to love the Word of God? Get in Psalm 119, perhaps. Just get started. Meditate on it, maybe a verse a day, maybe reading it every day for a period of weeks. It’ll just take you fifteen minutes to read it. As you get to love God’s Word grace will grow in every area of your life. Meditation starts with reading, reading God’s Word.

I love this quote by J.C. Ryle. He said, "Give the Bible the honor due to it every day you live. Whatever you read, read that first.”

That actually was a principle that my dad lived by. He had these things he would say, little sayings. One of them was, “No  Bible reading, no breakfast.” And he was a man who had to have breakfast—eight a.m. So he was going to be in the Word before breakfast. But he also had this kind of personal habit not to read anything else in the day before he would read God’s Word. That’s what James C. Ryle said, whatever you read, read that first.

Now in this challenge that we are giving this year, I’m not saying when to read God’s Word. I think starting the day with God’s Word is a great habit to get into. But maybe it’s better for you when your children are napping or when you get home from work. Just don’t give your most tired time of the day to try and read God’s Word or you’ll find yourself dozing off and not getting so much out of it.

But meditation goes beyond reading. It starts there, it goes beyond that. And here are three questions to ask when you are meditating on a passage of Scripture.

  • Number one: What does this passage tell us about God? What does it say about who He is and about what He does?
  • Number two: What does this text say about us human beings? What does this say about people? What are we meant to be and what has gone wrong?
  • Number three: What has God done about this and what does He expect of us in the light of what He has done?

So you have: Who is God? Who are we? What is our fallen condition? And what does God’s grace do to address that fallen condition? A helpful way to think about meditating on God’s Word.

It is so important that we not just speed read the Bible. My dad, who placed such an emphasis on Bible reading in our home, used to say there were two things that you should never speed read. And he wanted us to learn speed reading. He helped us take a course to learn to read fast. But he said two things you shouldn’t speed read: one was love letters, the other was the Bible. The Bible is God’s love letter. So don’t be just racing your way through the Bible.

Sometimes I love going through at a faster pace, but make sure you are also taking time to meditate on smaller sections or portions—to mull it over. I love what Spurgeon says about this. He says, “Oh, to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up in your very soul, till it saturates your heart!"

Now in just the few minutes we have remaining, I want to touch on one other point. I didn’t know where to stick this, so I’m sticking it here. I just think it is really important. It’s another point that comes out of Psalm 119. And that’s to remember that we need God’s help to read, study, meditate on, obey His Word. We can’t do it on our own; we can’t keep His law on our own; we can’t know His Word on our own. We need His help; we need His grace; we need His Spirit to instruct us in what God’s Word means and to enable us to obey it.

It’s not enough to just read God’s Word. I’m thinking about a famous atheist you’ve probably read about—who actually knows the Scripture quite well. He has been really interested in reading the Bible. But he’s an atheist. He doesn’t have light. He doesn’t have the Spirit of God making Christ real to him in the Word.

We need a teacher as we read God’s Word. And we have the best teacher, because we have the Author, the Holy Spirit to explain to us what the Word means—to internalize and personalize it. And God uses other teachers in our lives. He uses your pastor. He can use a program like Revive Our Hearts. But keep in mind there is no teacher like the Holy Spirit. So don’t get hooked on my teaching or John MacArthur’s teaching or Alistair Begg, or James MacDonald or Kay Arthur or Beth Moore. There are lots of great Bible teachers. I want to be a good and helpful Bible teacher, but I don’t want you depending on me for your teaching. I want you depending on the Holy Spirit the same way I have to do when I am studying.

It’s interesting that all through Psalm 119 we have ten references, requests for God to teach me Your Word.

Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes. (v. 12)

Put false ways from me and graciously teach me your law. (v. 29)

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. (v. 33)

Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules. (v. 108)

Wouldn’t that be a great prayer to pray before you go to church? Or as you’re getting to church? “Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules.”

Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes. (v. 135)

Make me understand the way of your precepts. (v. 27)

Give me understanding that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. (v. 34)

These verses and others communicate a sense of dependence on God. We need for Him to help us, to give us a hunger and to teach us the Word of God; to help us understand it; to give us the desire for God’s Word. We need His Holy Spirit for all of that. Ask God to teach you.

When I go to God’s Word often in my quiet time, I have a prayer I’ve prayed many times over the years. It comes from various verses in the Scripture.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in your law. Give me understanding and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in Your  truth and teach me. For you are God, my Savior and my hope is in You all day long. That which I see not, teach thou me. If I’ve done iniquity, I will do it no more.”

That’s a prayer I often pray before I open God’s Word. I’m saying Lord, I need You to teach me, and I need You to enable me to obey.

Song: 

How sweet are thy words unto my taste,
Yea sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through thy precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.
Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies:
For they are ever with me.2

(taken from Psalm 119: 103-104a 97-98 KJV)

Leslie: How would 2012 be different from previous years if you spent time each day reading the Bible? Well, Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been challenging you with that thought throughout the series, Revive Me According to Your Word. And Nancy, a lot of listeners have responded to your challenge so far.

Nancy: They have, Leslie, and I’m praying that even more, perhaps thousands more people will sign up to take this challenge and read the Bible each day in 2012. Over the course of the past week and a half or so, many people have been signing up for the Daily Bible Reading Challenge at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you sign up and say, “I want to take that challenge,” we’ll send you a couple of emails each month to encourage you to keep going in the challenge throughout the course of the year. And when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com, you’ll also find a terrific variety of resources that our team has put together to help you get into God’s Word, to understand it, and to make it a part of your life.

Now today, we played a sample from a CD called “Psalm 119 in Song”. This CD was released just as I was recording this series on Psalm 119,  and I’m so grateful for it. It contains Psalm 119, the entire psalm set to music. Each of the twenty-two stanzas of Psalm 119 is a song on this CD on this CD Psalm 119 in Song. And I know some of our listeners will want to listen to this CD over and over again as an aid to memorizing this great chapter. If you’ll just go to ReviveOurHearts.com you’ll find a link that will show you how to get a copy of this CD for yourself. Again, it’s called Psalm 119 in Song.

When you go to ReviveOurHearts.com you’ll also find a great selection of plans that you can choose to help lead you through your Bible reading this year. And you’ll have a chance to get a really helpful little resource we’ve developed when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. That resource is called, “My Personal Bible Reading Journal.” It’s set up so that you can write down what passage of Scripture you read each day for a year. You can jot down a few notes about how God is speaking to you through His Word.

Then at the end of 2012, you’ll be able to look back and see how God has worked in your life through this Daily Bible Reading Challenge. We’ll be glad to send you that personal Bible reading journal when you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for the journal when you call us at 1-800-569-5959.  [For a two-week page of the journal to get you started, click here.]

Leslie: We’ve been studying the longest chapter in the Bible during Nancy’s current series, and this passage has had a big effect on our listeners. Find out how they’ve responded to the chapter tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 C. H. Spurgeon. Treasury of David, p. 510.

2  Psalm 119 in Song. Susie H. Kimbrough.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion